BOSTON — The case against alleged mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger is going forward with one indictment for 19 murder charges. Bulger will be arraigned on those charges next week.
On Thursday, in the first of two court hearings, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf denied the defense’s request to consolidate the murder indictment against Bulger with the 1994 racketeering charge. Wolf sided with the prosecution, saying the more recent murder charges are likely to be more provable. He then approved the government’s motion to dismiss the earlier case.
Bulger’s temporary lawyer argued that the prosecution was dropping the case to remove it from Wolf, who in the past has been critical of the government’s handling of the case. But Wolf, looking right at Bulger, said twice if the defendant thought the government was judge shopping, he should have appeared in court in 2000 to object.
In another hearing Thursday, Judge Marianne Bowler denied the government’s request for the court to ask Bulger’s brothers if they would pay for his defense. She said there’s no legal precedent for requiring a sibling to pay. Instead she appointed veteran defense attorney J.W. Carney as Bulger’s lawyer. Outside the courthouse, Carney said he has one goal.
“Our Constitution guarantees every defendant the right to a fair trial and we are going to see that he gets it,” Carney said.
Bulger’s temporary lawyer, Peter Krupp, is finished with the case. He said looking forward, the intense media attention will complicate the case.
“It is going to be profoundly difficult for Mr. Bulger to get a fair trial,” Krupp said. “There has been so much publicity about this case and everything that’s happened — even things that haven’t happened have been reported.”
Now the case against Bulger turns to the 19 murder charges. Carney says it’s premature to think about moving the trial out of Boston or a defense strategy. But he acknowledges it will be tough.
“It’s clear there will be tens of thousands of pieces of paper that we need to put eyeballs on, as well as thousands of exhibits,” Carney said. “It’s going to be a daunting task but we are going to be up to it, we guarantee that.”
Judge Bowler said it will be an extremely difficult case and it may be necessary to appoint another lawyer. Carney has defended other high-profile clients, including John Salvi, who killed two people in 1994 when he opened fire on two clinics where abortions were performed.
But there is no other defendant in Massachusetts with “Whitey” Bulger’s high profile. And law enforcement is taking no chances. Bulger is transported to and from court with a security detail fit for a president. On Thursday he was flown in a helicopter from the Plymouth jail to Logan Airport. Then he traveled by black SUV to the courthouse. He left amidst a wail of sirens.